Guest article by Bob Apollo of Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners:

How can you simply and succinctly explain what you do to a potential prospect or other interested party, and make them want to learn more? How can you ensure that your story is consistently communicated in every marketing message and in every sales conversation? The key is to make the story simple and uncomplicated – the sort of story that can be laid out in three short sentences and told in the time it takes to ride in an elevator (or a lift, to us Brits).

The “elevator pitch” first came to prominence as a device used by companies to explain their business to potential investors – an audience that is famously intolerant of rambling, poorly thought-through answers to the question “what exactly is it that you do?” But it turns out that your prospects think the same way – and if you make your explanation of what you do over-complicated, irrelevant or uninteresting, you can be sure that they will switch off.

8 key points

I’m a great fan of the structure introduced by Geoffrey Moore in “Crossing the Chasm”, the classic guide to high-tech marketing. I’ve made a few minor adjustments to his formula in the light of experience – you download a copy of our tip sheet here. But the key elements remain the same. In 30 seconds or less, your elevator pitch needs to address the following 8 points:

  • You need to gain rapport by describing the (1) roles and (2) organisations that you do business with in a way that resonates with your listener
  • You need to be clear about the (3) key problems or issues that you help your customers deal with
  • You need to describe (4) what you do in a way that they can understand – with reference to a (5) category of solution that they are familiar with
  • You need to articulate the (6) primary benefit you help your customers achieve
  • You need to help them (7) compare what you do with the most likely other option they might consider for solving the problem…
  • By describing in clear and simple terms the key thing that (8) sets you apart from all other options

The three sentence formula

I recommend that you structure your own elevator pitch using the following 3-sentence formula:

  • “We work with [Roles] in [Organisations] who are trying to address [Key Problems]
  • Our [Solution Name] is a [Solution Category] that enables them to [Primary Benefit]
  • Unlike [Alternative Option] what sets us apart is [Unique Advantage]”

Of course, the message may need to be tuned for the specific audience. Your sales people may have a particular form of words that enables them to put the message across. But the key thought is that you must always seek to tell the same consistent story, and to ensure that you address the 8 points identified above.

We strongly suggest that you speak with your customers. Find out how they describe what you do, and how they talk about the benefits you have helped them achieve. Look for common patterns, and common language. Ask them how they would describe the key things that set you apart. Incorporate these insights into your elevator pitch.

Try it for yourself

Why not try it for yourself? Get a cross-section of your staff to jot down what they would say when asked by a prospect “what exactly does your organisation do?” You might be surprised by the amount of variation in the story being told across your organisation.


Thanks to Bob Apollo of Inflexion-Point for this guest blog. We’ve found it to be a really useful approach so we are delighted to share it on our site. This blog originally appeared on the Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners site in March 2012, click here to view it.